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Mentoring

This information is designed to provide an introduction to mentoring at Arizona State University and a gateway to mentoring resources.

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.
~ Benjamin Disraeli

Introduction

What is mentoring?

  • Mentoring is a process whereby an individual offers help, guidance, advice and support to facilitate the learning or development of another person.
  • This process can occur as part of the development of a personal relationship between individuals or in brief encounters over a short period of time.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.
~ John C. Crosby

What is a mentor?*

A mentor typically performs multiple roles, beyond that of an advisor. A mentor makes a special and often personal investment in the career development of a protégé. Often, a mentor is also:

  • A teacher—helping the protégé develop critical skills and hone unique talents.
  • A role model—providing an example and modeling best practices.
  • A friend—providing crucial psychosocial support and encouragement.

* Adapted from the National Academy of Science's "Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a mentor to students in science and engineering."

What is a Mentoring Relationship?

Forms of mentoring can vary in modality and duration, and can encompass:

  • Personal face-to-face interactions.
  • Telephone/videoconference conversations.
  • E-mentoring: online mentoring communities that facilitate mentor/protégé connections.

In academic settings mentoring occurs in a variety of relationships, including:

  • Administrator-to-faculty mentoring.
  • Formalized senior-to-junior faculty mentoring programs.
  • Informal, colleague-to-colleague mentoring.
  • Faculty-to-graduate student mentoring.
  • Faculty-to-undergraduate student mentoring.
  • Graduate-to-undergraduate student mentoring.
  • Networking through faculty and staff organizations.

Importantly, mentoring involves a dynamic, two-way relationship that produces benefits for both protégé and mentor.

Benefits of Mentoring

For the Protégé

  • Constructive criticism and informal feedback facilitates development of increased competencies and stronger interpersonal skills.
  • Enhances confidence and offers challenges to set higher goals, take risks and achieve at higher levels.
  • Knowledge of formal and informal rules and expectations for advancement.
  • Knowledge of university procedures.
  • Advice on scholarship and teaching.
  • Individual recognition and encouragement.
  • Psychosocial support.
  • Advice on balancing range of academic, professional and administrative responsibilities.

For the Mentor

  • Development of interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Fosters leadership and teaching skills.
  • Satisfaction in assisting in colleague development.
  • Demonstrates professionalism and commitment.
  • Development of a network of colleagues.

For Departments/Institutions

  • More positive organizational climate and clearer understanding of professional responsibilities and expectations.
  • Reduced attrition rates.
  • Promotes culture of cooperation and cohesion.
  • Increased productivity and satisfaction of protégé.
  • Research atmospheres in which mentoring is present are less likely to have scientific misconduct.
  • Important tool for building diversity.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
~ Winston Churchill

* Page contents adapted from the University of Toronto Faculty Mentorship Program.

Attributes of a Good Mentor

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.
~ Earl Gray Stevens

Patience

As noted elsewhere, a mentor wears many hats—sometimes a teacher, sometimes a role model, sometimes a friend. Patience is required to gauge the protégé’s needs and to respond by fulfilling the appropriate role. Giving direct advice might be easier, but far less effective, in many occasions than modeling an appropriate strategy/behavior or offering the support provided by active listening.

Support

Acknowledging difficulties and recognizing efforts/accomplishments can help the protégé feel that they are not “all alone.”

Honesty

Frank feedback about skills and performance are crucial to a protégé’s development and is unlikely to be available in other domains. Honest and open discussions about the mentor’s and protégé’s needs help ensure that the relationship remains productive and that both parties remain satisfied with their roles.

Availability

The amount of time required of the mentor depends upon the nature of the mentoring relationship (see mentoring forms above) and the protégés’ needs. Initial and ongoing discussions of expectations between mentor and protégé can help ensure that the mentor’s availability meets the protégé’s needs. If the protégé’s needs exceed the mentor’s availability, then these open discussions provide an appropriate forum for exploring alternate mentoring resources or arrangements.

Communication skills

The mentoring relationship provides a valuable opportunity for the mentor to hone their own communication skills, while also helping to develop these skills in their protégé. The multiple roles of the mentor require different communication approaches and flexibility in their application. The array of modern communication media available (e.g., face-to-face conversation, phone, video conference, e-mail, instant messenger) present both challenges and opportunities for the relationship’s success and for the mentor’s skills development.

Networking skills

A successful mentor provides access to resources outside of their limited purview. Providing access to one’s personal network of colleagues links the protégé to a carefully developed web of resources. Actively demonstrating one’s networking skills models one of the skills that is most important for success in academia.

Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge